The U of T’s Opera School
There are few joys more pleasurable for an opera buff than hearing exceptionally talented young artists on the threshold of an international career – knowing them before they become famous. We have such a privilege here in Toronto each year as the Opera School at the University of Toronto develops and prepares an annual batch of opera stars of the future for their professional debuts.
Students in the program at “the Opera Division of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto” (as it is more formally known) are hoping for a career of glamour, travel and fame. Perhaps they may have been told that the lifestyle of an opera star can sometimes be highly competitive, brutally tough, and often lonely, but, at this stage of their development, they are driven by their burgeoning talent and are brimming with fearless optimism. It’s a heady mixture to be associated with and the performances at the Opera School often prove to be some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of the year.
Under the experienced and astute musical guidance of Professor Stephen Ralls and the expert stagecraft and dramatic direction of Michael Patrick Albano, the School trains 20 to 25 students each year. Students usually have a musical degree before entering the program and most remain at the School for 2 to 3 years. Each day they follow a varying schedule of acting lessons, voice lessons, and musical coaching directed at specific productions and roles. At least four times a year they are also preparing for major or partial productions on the stage of the University’s MacMillan Theatre at the Edward Johnson Building. (The theatre has a stage the same size as that at the Hummingbird Centre.) There are so many aspects of a professional opera star to be learned, including the ability to project effectively in at least three languages, sword-fighting techniques, make-up and costume drills, and experienced self-confidence on stage.
Impresarios in Europe, in North America and throughout the operatic world continually comment on the quality and appreciate the calibre of the training of singers coming out of Toronto’s exceptional Opera School.